Beyond Green, Brown, Red and Blue | Real Local Input

by Myriem Le Ferrand-Radjef | socialfieldwork.net

No one holds the reins, folks. “We the people” could set the course of our better futures. Yes, representatives hold a theoretical legitimacy to govern. However, legitimacy is a poor substitute for actuality – the facts – in the decisions that affect us. Authority to govern or legislate draws solely from our approval whether tacit, complacent or active.

If we are to actively transform what we now know to be broken, we begin by coming together to better inform decisions and to assess claims made by agencies, local government, nonprofits, corporate brands and candidates for office.

We believe that Democrats are the good guys: they are cool and environmentally savvy. They represent our selfless values in protecting the less fortunate. In turn, the Republicans are the bad guys: they represent business interests first, people and planet last.

Is that really so? We hand over our authority through a series of elections. However replacing G.H.W. Bush with Clinton did not change the pace of climate change nor did it spare critical habitat. We did not see immigration issues alleviated nor social justice truly addressed.

So, how did we lose the reins? A partial explanation lies in legislation passed in the sixties, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The rule-making process established regulations requiring Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). However, for a range of reasons, EIS roll out fell short. As time passed, contractors hired to conduct EIS often wrote statements based on existing studies rather than up-to-date social or ecological impact assessments. In the cumulative aggregate, we can now see the devastating consequences of ill-informed public decisions rippling through our social and natural landscapes, and by extension at the national and even global level.

Now in our extreme times, shock value rhetoric overshadows plain speak and common sense. The day-in and day-out of “environmental stewardship” is reduced to arguments about climate change (i.e. planet in trouble); “real people” are reduced to disputes over immigration, health care, color, and education. The story is much more complex. We must reclaim the narrative.

We start with real local input. Real local input requires we roll up our sleeves and do social fieldwork. Social fieldwork has a feel of community organizing, but is more bottoms up. Social fieldwork is getting together and documenting what is important. It is community dialogue and research that lingers in the common understanding as a bond of truth to recognize fake news and false claims immediately. Social fieldwork is unbiased, academically rigorous, participatory research. From there, we can begin to inform ecological and social impact assessments and establish baseline indicators of wellness in our communities and neighborhoods. Real local input will take time and practice. Don’t give up. It can be done. It must be done!

To make good decisions, we must have good information. Each election cycle is an opportunity to join together to inform our democracy with real local input. If we do the work, we can link together our common interests beyond green, brown, red, and blue. We can unify what has been divided. The difference between what is and what can be is in our hands.

Comments 7

  1. I would like to recommend that editorials which reach the public be written using the Gunning Fog Index so that they are readable to more people.

  2. > We believe that Democrats are the good guys […] In turn, the Republicans are the bad guys

    Was the author trying to set up a straw man here? It makes me uncomfortable seeing our neighbors in Collin County painted with such broad stokes as ideological enemies. Stay classy Dems.

    1. I know the author very well, and I can affirm that she was not seeing your neighbors that way. (I say “your neighbors” because I’m in San Diego, CA.) She was, I’m very sure, saying that the constructed narrative about elected Dems and Reps is that way, and that that is an extreme oversimplification.

    2. When you say Dems good, Reps bad, are you talking about citizens or elected officials? I know many many citizens and neighbors who are decent people. I have communicated with Van Taylor. On a personal level, he is a very decent human being. His office is courteous. But, at the present time, all Republican elected officials are slaves of Trump.

  3. As a professional working in the field of political system process (election integrity), I think that the author is right on the money in terms of cutting through the constructed narratives about good guys and bad, and “getting empirical” instead. Relying on simplifications is fine, to a point: As between Dems and Reps, Dems by and large are angels of our better nature. But how far does that get us if our world is facing an existential crisis and elected Dems, for structural and other reasons, are AWOL – or even if they’re not, the larger system in which they are working is not translating needed ideas into realized policy and effective action? Local research, ideas, policy and action are a needed workaround.

    Of course, we are all linked together, you in Washington and me in San Diego and someone else is Minneapolis. Local action isn’t a panacea, nor is local current-moment data. The world is changing fast, as the IPCC has documented, so we need a both/and approach, of empirically verifiable local research and multi-local generalizable research and data that helps us see into the future, and take preemptive action.

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